Curiouser and curiouser

Published: March 21, 2017

It was on a quiet suburban street in London on September 16, 2010, that Imran Farooq was murdered, stabbed and battered to death by two men in broad daylight. He was a leading figure in the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and at the time of his death may β€” or may not β€” have been involved in a move against the leader of the party, Altaf Hussain, who is also based in London. His killers fled, eventually to be arrested in Pakistan along with another man said to be implicated. With three in custody and confessional statements from two of them, it would on the surface appear to be simple enough to process an extradition for all concerned so that there can be a trial in the UK of those suspected of the Imran Farooq murder.

There is no extradition treaty between Pakistan and the UK but extraditions do happen particularly in cases involving violent crime. The arbiter in the UK is the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which decides on the available evidence whether a prosecution is likely to succeed or not. Inexplicably the British government has failed to process a CPS request to extradite Mohsin Ali Syed which is extant from early 2016. Such requests have to go through the Home Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before being passed to the relevant authority in Pakistan β€” and the process appears to be firmly stalled. Attempts to discover why have been stonewalled feeding, not unjustifiably, suspicion in several quarters in Pakistan that the lack of action is not unconnected to the possibility that the UK sees the continued presence of Altaf Hussain as something of a diplomatic asset, which allows a degree of leverage from afar in Pakistan by the British government. This is by no means as far-fetched as it may sound, and the distinctly ambiguous position of the British government over many years in respect of the MQM and its exiled leader do nothing to defuse such suspicions. It would appear that Altaf Hussain leads something of a charmed life in exile, almost a mirror of the culture of impunity that prevails in his country of origin. Hardly the finest hour for British diplomacy.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 21st, 2017.

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